La Venta Fauna : Fossil Gallery

The La Venta fauna from Colombia is unique; many of the species and genera described from the Villavieja Formation are known from nowhere else. Additionally, most of our information about Tertiary life in South America comes from Patagonia (southern Argentina), which has never been a tropical region. The La Venta fauna is thus our only source for understanding the kinds and diversity of Tertiary animals from tropical regions of South America.

Below is a gallery of some remarkable fossils in the UCMP vertebrate collections; many of these fossils are types.


Geochelone sp. indet.

Underside view of a partial skull of the turtle Geochelone. This specimen was cited in the type description of G. hesterna, but the skull is comparable in size to those of the giant tortoises of Galapagos, and thus this specimen may represent an as yet undescribed species.

Caiman latirostris

Skull of a sizeable crocodylian formerly referred to C. lutescens. If the new identification as C. latirostris is correct, then this is the oldest known fossil of a living crocodylian species. Quite a number of crocodylians have been found at La Venta.

Mammalia : Xenarthra

Anadasypus hondanus (?)

Scutes from the body armor and tail-tube of a Dasypodid armadillo.

Glyptodont Armor

Reassembled portion of the armor which would have covered the back and sides of a sizeable glyptodont. Almost all fossils of armadillos and glyptodonts from South America have come from Patagonia.

Glyptodont Foot

Mammalia : Primates

Cebupithecia sarmientoi

This skull, part of an incomplete skeleton, was discovered in 1944-45. This was only the second fossil genus of New World monkey described to that time, and marked the beginning of a serious exploration for more fossils.

Cebupithecia sarmientoi

Top view of the same specimen cast shown above. Both the skull and jaw have been reconstructed; only the front of the mandible and the maxillary region have been found. By contrast, nearly 70% of the rest of the skeleton was found.

Mammalia : Astrapotheria

Granastrapotherium snorki

Astrapotheres were a group of ungulate mammals unique to South America. In the living animal, canine tusks would have protruded forwards from both the upper and lower jaw. The large nasal cavities of the skull (not shown) suggest that this animal may have had a large proboscis. This photo was taken using a combination of a fossilized lower left jaw bearing cheek teeth (UCMP 40187), and another fossil of a tusk (UCMP 40189). The scientific name literally means "snorkeled giant lightning-beast".

Mammalia : Notoungulata, Toxodonta

Miocochilius anomopodus

The majority of South American ungulate mammals belong to the order Notoungulata. This particular species is one of the more enduring taxa, being found from the upper to lowermost strata of the Honda Group.

Huilatherium pluriplicatum

Another toxodont with a broad biostratigraphic range, Huilatherium has been collected in large numbers from the Honda Group. The skull in the picture looks odd because it was photographed upside-down in a storage cradle.

Huilatherium pluriplicatum

A view of the same skull as above, but from the underside. Teeth from this species were first found in Colombia in 1920, though they were not identified until almost fifteen years later.

Huilatherium pluriplicatum

Lower jaw (mandible) from a smaller specimen. Huilatherium is one of only two genera of Leontiniidae to have survived into the Miocene.